A journey towards self-directed writing: a longitudinal study of undergraduate language students’ writing

Jako Olivier


Writing is key to assessment in university contexts and hence students need to be empowered to effectively function in subject-specific writing environments. In this regard, it is important that students take charge of their own writing development. Hence, the concept of self-direct writing is relevant in this context. The aim of this article is to explore students’ perceptions and practice of self-directed writing and to thereby also evaluate the use of an open-ended questionnaire, an existing self-directed learning questionnaire and student essays as sources of self-directedness in terms of writing. Through these surveys and document analysis diverse, but complementing, results could be drawn. The responses in this study reflect the importance of scaffolding and support provided externally (through lecturers, writing laboratories, facilitators and peers) as well as internally (through reading and continuous writing). Although self-directedness was not very prominently mentioned by the students in the open-ended questionnaire, evidence of a move towards self-directedness in writing was observed. Furthermore, the results of the self-rating scale of self-directed learning showed that most of these respondents regarded themselves as self-directed learners. The document analysis of the essays showed improvement from the first year to the third year. It is also clear that self-directed writing can only be achieved through the facilitation of writing about topics of students’ choosing, promotion of metacognitive strategies around writing as well as adequate peer and lecturer support, feedback and assessment.


self-directed writing; self-directed language learning; writing instruction; subject-specific writing instruction; academic writing

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5785/32-3-686


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